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Radioactive Wastes and Laws

Introduction [1][2][3][4]
The word radioactive is akin to nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is one of the most polarized energies in the world. It provides jobs, reliable energy sources, and national security. On the other since Chernobyl and Fukushima Nuclear disasters, many critics express their worries about its impact on health and the environment.

The most controversial aspect of nuclear energy is its radioactive waste. In layman's terms, radioactive wastes are the types of radioactive hazardous wastes. For example, nuclear medicine, nuclear research, nuclear power generation, and nuclear weapons reprocessing are the types of radioactive waste.

Most developing (even developed) countries have little to no access to facilities that could handle wastes from nuclear power plants or other radioactive industries. For example, in Canada, environmentalists and the locals voiced out against the dumping of radioactive wastes in the Ottawa River.

Many industries would drop their wastes on the rivers and forests, which create long-term harmful effects on nature and its inhabitants living in the said areas.

During the Vietnam War, the United States rigorously used Agent Orange to deprive the Viet Cong and the NVA of crucial resources, transportation routes, and hiding places. However, in the post-war period, it killed more than 400,000 Vietnamese civilians. The chemical also causes long-term health issues like cancer, birth defects, muscular dysfunctions, and neurological disorders.

Negative Effects of Radioactive Waste[5][6
  • Half-Life: Nuclear fission products have long half-lives, which means they will remain radioactive and thus dangerous for many millennia. This means that if something happens to an end up wasting cylinders wherein nuclear waste is stored, the above substance could be highly unstable and dangerous for many decades to come. Because hazardous nuclear waste is frequently not sent to special locations to be stored, it is pretty easy to find, but if anyone of ill intent had to look for nuclear waste to represent upsetting purposes, they might be able to find some and use it.
  • Health Effects: The most serious concern is the negative effects that radiation can have on the human body. Radiation's long-term effects can even lead to cancer. It's fascinating to learn that we are naturally exposed to radiations emitted by the ground beneath us as we go about our daily lives. Radiation can alter the 'DNA' that allows cells to repair themselves.
  • Expensive: When a nuclear disaster happens, like in the case of Chernobyl, cleaning up its mess was even more expensive. The reason is the higher-ups have to make sure that living beings like plants, animals, humans are not severely affected. Cleaning up spilled radioactive waste is a challenging task itself. It'll take a lot of years for the area to be safe again. In severe cases, it will take decades before any sense of normalcy returns. In Chernobyl's case, Pripyat's inhabitants have never returned to their homes because of the high radiation exposure.
  • Affect on Nature: One of the most serious concerns about the disposal of nuclear waste is the impact the hazardous materials may have on animals and plant life. Although the waste is usually well tightly closed inside huge steel and concrete drums, accidents and leaks do occur from time to time. Nuclear waste can have devastating effects on life, such as causing cancerous growths or causing genetic issues in future generations of animals and plants. As a result, improper nuclear waste disposal can have massive environmental consequences, endangering wildlife and a large number of species of animals.

Radioactive Waste Types[7]
 
Very Low-Level Wastes Intermediate Level Waste High-Level Waste
The less harmful Wastes. For example- concrete, plaster, brick, metal, valves, pipes, etc.

Even products like paper, rags, clothes, cotton, filters, etc. have short-term radioactivity.
It contains a high level of radioactivity and proper burial is required.

For example resins, metal fuel, etc.
It is highly radioactive and hot. They emerge from burning uranium fuel in a nuclear reactor. Cooling and shielding are required for disposal.

India is researching to find the safest disposal of waste.
Indian Laws as remedies[8][9][10]
The Environmental Protection Act:
  • Section 7 of the Act: Persons carrying on industry, operation, etc., not to allow emission or discharge of environmental pollutants in excess of the standards. No person carrying on any industry, operation, or process shall discharge or emit or permit to be discharged or emitted any environmental pollutant in excess of such standards as may be prescribed.
     
  • Section 9 of the Act: Furnishing information to authorities and agencies in certain cases.
    1. Where the discharge of any environmental pollutant above the prescribed standards occurs or is apprehended to occur due to an accident or other unforeseen act or event, the person responsible for such discharge and the person in charge of the place at which such discharge occurs or is apprehended to occur shall be bound to prevent or mitigate the environmental pollution caused as a result of such discharge and shall also forthwith:
      1. intimate the fact of such occurrence or apprehension of such occurrence; and
      2. be bound, if called upon, to render all assistance, to such authorities or agencies as may be prescribed.
    2. On receipt of information concerning the fact or apprehension of any occurrence of the nature referred to in sub-section (1), whether through intimation under that sub-section or otherwise, the authorities or agencies referred to in sub-section (1) shall, as early as practicable, cause such remedial measures to be taken as are necessary to prevent or mitigate the environmental pollution.
    3. The expenses, if any, incurred by any authority or agency concerning the remedial measures referred to in sub-section (2), together with interest (at such reasonable rate as the Government may, by order, fix) from the date when demand for the expenses is made until it is paid, may be recovered by such authority or agency from the person concerned as arrears of land revenue or public demand.
       
  • In simple words, Section 7 of the act prohibits the harming of the environment. A person should not bring materials that could emit or discharge environmental pollutants more than the prescribed standards.
     
  • Section 9 states that if the person harms the environment and it is a foreseen or unforeseen event, then they should be liable to clear up the mess. They must also inform the proper authorities regarding the said event taking place.
     
  • Polluters Pay Principle:
    The principle exists in Section 9(3) of the said act. It states that the person responsible for the environmental disaster will only be liable to pay for the damages of the said disaster.
     
  • Corporate Veil:
    The act removes any sense of corporate veil. If a company commits an environmental crime (with the consent of the upper echelons), then it is liable that the company pay for the damages.
     
  • The Environmental Protection Rule 1986:
    The government formulated the said rule. The Act confers their power, and through these powers, the government has the authority to give specific orders, but it must not change the act's principles.

The Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling, and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008
  • Hazardous waste management is a very complicated issue. Certain laws and regulations must be followed, which form the legal structure. The Rules impose a duty on the occupant of hazardous waste to handle environmental waste safely and soundly. The occupier is the person in charge of a plant, unit, or factory that generates hazardous waste as a consequence of its operation. The occupier should indeed sell or send the hazardous waste to a reprocessor or recycler who has been authorized by the government to try to get rid of the waste safely. Anyone involved in storage, packaging, collection, destruction, conversion, or processing must also obtain authorization from the State Pollution Board.
  • Recyclers, occupiers, re-users, and re-processors can keep waste for up to 90 days.
  • Hazardous waste can only be sold or transferred after gaining a valid registration from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). CPCB registration is also required when using waste as a source of energy.
  • The Basel Convention directs the transboundary shipping of hazardous waste, toward which India is a signatory. Importing hazardous waste for disposal is illegal in India, but imports for reuse, recovery as an energy source, and recycling are permitted with certain restrictions. With only the previous knowledge and agreement of the importing country is the export of hazardous waste permitted in India.
     
Conclusion [11]
When the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Case happened, 3000 people lost their lives because of the incompetence of the factory's staff. The MIC spilled and took lives, limbs, souls of the people. Understandably the people sued the company, the Union Carbide Corporation, in New York District Court and Bhopal District Court. The latter slapped the corporation with Rs 350 crores as compensation.

Despite the amount reduced to Rs 250 crores in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, the Apex Court got the last laugh when it fined the company Rs 750 crores.
The court gave its view that the parties responsible for harming the science and climate have to pay for the said harms (MC Mehta vs. Kamal Nath and Ors.). Most companies and their factories are willing to damage the environment and people for profit. They know laws and their enforcement in India are weak, so they take advantage of it.

It's high time for us to make our laws more strong, more strict, yet fair. That way, we can change the lives of people and wildlife. We might even make our environment healthy for the future generation if the present is willing to change.

Credentials:
My name is Anish Bachchan and I'm a 5th Year Law Student at Amity Law School, Noida. I have published my various writings on The Los Angeles Times, The Times of India, Live Wire, Youth Ki Awaaz, Legal Service India, and Law Corner. I have also published two books i.e.
  1. Patent 101 Level 1: Understanding Patent of Aggressive Monetization of Video Games
  2. Contempt of Court with References to Media Trials.

End-Notes:
  1. Radioactive waste - Wikipedia [Internet]. En.wikipedia.org. 2022 [cited 21 March 2022]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_waste
  2. Six reasons to STOP the Ottawa River radioactive waste dump [Internet]. Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area. 2022 [cited 21 March 2022]. Available from: https://concernedcitizens.net/2021/03/21/six-reasons-to-stop-the-ottawa-river-radioactive-waste-dump/
  3. Advantages and Challenges of Nuclear Energy [Internet]. Energy.gov. 2022 [cited 21 March 2022]. Available from: https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/advantages-and-challenges-nuclear-energy
  4. Bachchan A. The Vietnam War And the Agent Orange Case [Internet]. Law Corner. 2022 [cited 21 March 2022]. Available from: https://lawcorner.in/the-vietnam-war-and-the-agent-orange-case/
  5. Dangers and Effects of Nuclear Waste Disposal - Conserve Energy Future [Internet]. Conserve Energy Future. 2022 [cited 21 March 2022]. Available from: https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/dangers-and-effects-of-nuclear-waste-disposal.php
  6. Chernobyl disaster - Wikipedia [Internet]. En.wikipedia.org. 2022 [cited 21 March 2022]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster
  7. Radioactive Wastes and Pollution - Types of Radioactive Wastes [Internet]. BYJUS. 2022 [cited 21 March 2022]. Available from: https://byjus.com/biology/radioactive-wastes-and-pollution/
  8. Section 9 in The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 [Internet]. Indiankanoon.org. 2022 [cited 21 March 2022]. Available from: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/142112542/
  9. Section 7 in The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 [Internet]. Indiankanoon.org. 2022 [cited 21 March 2022]. Available from: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/75233928/
  10. Guest Post, Waste Management Laws in India - iPleaders, IPleaders (May 14, 2016), blog.ipleaders.in/waste-management-laws-india/.
  11. Environmental Hazard: The Concept Of Mass Tort Litigation, Brillopedia (Jan. 16, 2022), www.brillopedia.net/post/environmental-hazard-the-concept-of-mass-tort-litigation.

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  1. Radioactive Pollution

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